(or, How I Came To Have Xena
In My Living Room)

Monday, November 22, 1999
An open letter to the All_Xena_Fans chat group:

Hi, everyone!

You may have noticed I haven't been contributing much lately (ok, maybe you haven't noticed...). Anyway, I've finally managed to attract a girlfriend, and girlfriends can be rather time-consuming! I hope to get up my comments on the 2-part China shows, but it may have to wait until next month (we'll be in reruns anyway!) since Thanksgiving is right around the corner. But I DID get to spend last Saturday at the Hercules/Xena convention here in Atlanta (my new girlfriend couldn't stop laughing when I told her where I was going Saturday--she's not a big Xena fan!). My report from the con:

I wasn't expecting much from this event, but I must say I'm really happy I went! Wish I had the time to go Sunday too, since Saturday seemed to focus a lot more on Herc, and Xena was really done up on Sunday (according to the printed schedule of events). But this was Xena's crowd--a few Xena or Gab outfits, lots of Xena t-shirts, etc. I don't think anyone would notice if Herc hadn't been covered. Since I spend most of my time around people who don't know much about Xena and usually don't care, it was great to talk to a lot of people who also see the show as a major life event! I'm not alone!!! About 80% of the crowd appeared to come from lesbian circles, but I wasn't the only 40 year old straight male in attendance, thankfully. Lots of wives there who left their hubbies at home! Everyone was nice, including the people working the show, and it was a lot of fun.

So, my first quibble came when I arrived. The tickets said the event started at noon, but upon arriving a little early, I signed in, got a schedule, and found out the first organized activity didn't start until 1:25! Why didn't they mail a schedule (even if open to change) with the tickets? Back to the car to read the paper for an hour! But the vendors were set up, and I guess the idea is that people will buy more stuff given an hour and a half to look around! So I looked about before returning to the car, and most of the stuff were the same things you find in the Creation mail order catalog. Much of the stuff was nicer looking than I thought it would be (like the pewter busts). I almost freaked when I saw they had the Fan Kit #3's available (I'm still waiting on my mail delivery), but I found out they were taking your money and name/address, and they will be shipped out later on (hopefully after my "early order" gets shipped). I was hoping they might have a good price on the videotapes, but they aren't selling them anymore (through Creation, anyway).

So, I went to the picture room (just a whole room of glossy photos, plaques, posters, and picture-related stuff). I wanted a souvenir, so I got a picture of Xena as Mel preparing to throw her chakram (item XE-LL4 for those of you with the catalog) since it was a beautiful picture of Lucy and, since I don't have any "new Gabrielle" pictures, I bought a photo of Gab in her winter coat holding her sais (item XE-RO39). They should make a good addition to my Xena photo album.

Much of the show would've been totally boring to a non-Xenite. There were musical tributes to many of the main characters where scenes in the show featuring the character are edited to music. I could've lived without, but the audience was very enthusiastic (fortunately, the Gab musical tribute was Saturday! But the "Favorite Moments With Gabrielle" show was Sunday--dang it!). A bad sound system didn't help (the sound was courtesy of the hotel, so we couldn't hold the Creation folks responsible for that glitch). The sound kept popping in and out in various parts of the room, making for a strange experience.

Sharon Delaney got up as the first actual speaker (she's the fan club president and writes most of the Chakram magazine articles, for those who don't know). Much of her news we've covered here in the e-mail messages, but a couple notes of interest:
1. Sharon says that Xena will be on for at least one more season. Everyone has signed, and all plans are going ahead. However, as she pointed out, in Hollywood, anything can happen, so until you see Xena, Season Six, Episode One on your TV, don't count out a reversal on this. But it looks good!
2. No, Gabrielle's horse doesn't have a name yet. (Perhaps they should hold a contest?--that's my own thought.)
3. At this time, there is absolutely no plan to get Gab and Joxer together. Joxer's is an unrequited love, poor guy (I can relate!)!

There was an interesting showing of an Australian "60 Minutes" report on XWP. Again, no real news here since the show was apparently shot during the beginning of the season and we've seen it all now, but lots of behind the scenes shots. The aerial shots of the NZ shooting location was interesting, seeing how all the sets are laid out in a very small area. This begs the question, if they aren't showing XWP in Australia, why do a feature on 60M (not that I'm complaining)?

Next we saw the new Xena blooper reel (don't have to wait for the fan kit anymore!), and I thought it was the best one yet! I won't spoil it for anyone, though. Renee's intro is really cute, and they showed the outtakes from her filming for that, showing how she took the basic idea of the introduction and improvised several ways to present it (what a great actress).

There was then an auction, and a lot of good stuff was sold for way below list price. They had one of the new Gab's staffs, and I wanted it so bad, but I couldn't afford even the reduced auction selling price (I think it went for a couple hundred dollars vs. the three hundred dollar or so regular price). I guess since Gab's gone with the sais, I should hold out for them instead (no, there were no sais available at the show). There was an autographed Gab photo, but again, it was a little rich for my blood (the autographs really jack up the prices!).

Next was a presentation of XWP's 10 favorite moments from the show, based on a web poll (where was I for that?). Nothing you haven't seen before, but interesting anyway to revisit some good scenes. I was surprised that most of the favorites were not the fight scenes (the big fight represented was Gab's Roman soldier slaughter in Ides). Most of the scenes were the quiet talks between Xena and Gab, like when they were waiting to be executed in Ides. The number one scene was the one from Is There a Doctor In the House when Xena saves Gabrielle's life with mouth-to-mouth and a bit of chest-thumping. Most of the favorites, surprisingly, seemed to be from last season (e.g., Between the Lines when Gab puts Xena's mehndi on her and they trap Alti and send her back with that amazing light show).

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hi hon
Ali Wall"

So, bring on Allison "Minya" Wall for her first convention appearance ever. I like seeing her since A Day In the Life is my favorite episode (so far). Allison appeared to be a little nervous at first. No little talk first, she just quickly introduced herself and she started taking questions. She had the kiwi accent happening, and her hair was strawberry blond. She is also much prettier in person than on the show (she at least looked thinner than Minya). She's also not very tall, as women go. I never would have recognized her. Once the enthusiastic crowd showed her how much we liked her, her nervousness disappeared, and she seemed to have fun. She said there are no current plans to have Minya back ("not a lot of room for a goatherd on an action show"), but she'd like to do it again. She was asked whatever happened to Hower, her boyfriend in ADITL, and, not being one of the writers, she didn't know. A couple of people from the crowd got up on stage and presented her with a black t-shirt labeled "Thespian" on the front (a little play on the thespian/lesbian scene at the end of The Play's the Thing). She said she'd never heard of the word "thespian" before (she's an actress?), and when they had to overdub the dialog for the thespian/lesbian scene (too much noise on the actual set), she kept saying "thesbian" and was told to do it over several times before someone realized what the problem was and corrected her.

After an all-too-short intermission (my butt was getting quite tired of sitting down by this point), they had a video presentation of the making of the Bitter Suite, and then the Hercules blooper reel. Apparently, they had trouble getting Kevin Sorbo to sign off on the blooper tape because he didn't think it was "funny enough". As Sharon pointed out, hey, they are bloopers, not scripted scenes, so just go with it, Kev!

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"to Rick
love Claire"

Then they brought on Claire "Alti" Stansfield. After seeing Allison's first appearance, you could really tell Claire had done this before. She had a whole little routine worked up, talking about life on the Xena set and so on. Anyone wanting to know what she said can refer to the Chakram Issue No. 8. It was very similar. Claire, of course, looks nothing like Alti (as far as an actress can not look like her character!). She's very tall and very skinny, no heavy eye makeup. She wore very tight, stretchy clothes that looked like they were about to burst off her from the pressure! (Again, see the picture in Chakram 8 and imagine a miniskirt in place of the leather pants.) She wasn't too concerned about language, peppering her talk with a lot of common cuss words (nothing too raunchy). For some reason, she had seen Pamela Anderson Lee in her new show (VIP? PI? who knows? who cares?), and went off on a couple of anti-Pamela rants (where did that come from?). Anyway, she was talking about Pam wearing ridiculous shoes during her chase scenes, and referred several times to "f***-me pumps" (with all the letters left in). Suddenly she looked down and saw some young kids in the front row, and boy was she embarrassed! She apologized profusely, and said she was told backstage that it was basically an adult crowd waiting for her. Oops! Asked if there were return plans for Alti on XWP, she said there are no plans currently. She thinks covering her in amber (or whatever it was) and burning her up in Them Bones was about the end for Alti, but she too wants to come back if possible (and, as she pointed out, being dead is the best way to assure a comeback appearance on this show!). She said her acting career has really started to open up after the XWP shows, and seemed very thankful to the crowd for their support. That woman has a lot of energy, bouncing around the stage, going into character as Alti (Allison also gave us a taste of Minya during her talk as well), etc. No wonder she's so skinny! Claire was also presented with a shirt which read "Xena's BIG Bitch". Very funny!

The last event was the autograph signing. Sharon Delaney was at the first table controlling the flood of autograph seekers. Since the line wasn't moving too quickly (no one seemed to be in a hurry however--too much fun going on), I took the opportunity to tell her how much I admired her work for the fan club. She told me the kits were still being held up by printing problems, and hopefully the new kits will go out next month. During intermission, I had gone back to the picture room and obtained photos of Claire and Allison to autograph (these aren't in the Creation catalog, so I assume they are new or just brought out to sign at the cons). They both were very generous with their time, talking to people and joking around as they signed (Allison had changed into her Thespian shirt by this time). I told Claire I like having her on, since she makes a great villain filling Callisto's shoes. Looking at the brunette Minya in my photo and the strawberry blonde Allison in front of me, I asked her what her real hair color is. She said, "It's really red like this--for now!" Then she got serious and said her hair is brown, but much lighter than Minya's. I wished her well on her trip through the US.

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Standee Hercules saves
Standee Xena from
a life of evil!

By this point, I was on a real Xena high. I didn't want to leave, but it was 7pm by now and I was starved (the hotel had some food available, but it was all small and overpriced of course). I thought the pictures were cool souvenirs, but I wanted something really special. There was still a girl working the buyer's table, so I detoured over to look everything over once more. I could always order stuff through the mail, but having come from the con itself would make it more meaningful for me. It was at this point I decided the Xena standee (the life-size cardboard cutout) was the ideal item, although I had no idea how it would fit into my apartment. I couldn't see spending even more money on the talking one (a decision I may regret), so I got a regular Xena. So, now Xena's in my living room, scaring the hell out of me every time I come around the corner (I'll get used to it). She doesn't talk, but Xena's never been much on small talk, eh? The final surprise of the day came when I pulled out cardboard Xena for my girlfriend. I figured she'd think I was nuts for buying it, but she actually thought it was really cool, and was the one who insisted I put it in the living room for maximum viewing pleasure. Now if I can just get her watching the shows....

All in all, a wonderful time was had by all, and to all of you with a Xena Con coming to town, I recommend attending at least one day. I was definitely psyched to see Back In the Bottle that night! Sorry for the length of this e-mail, but I had to let it all out!

Rick (reporting directly from the Xena Front)

"Where are the Gabrielle standees?" --Rick at the Xena Convention
"We had to discontinue them. All the guys kept drooling on them and getting them soggy." --Saleswoman
"Strange, that's what I was gonna do with mine!" --Rick

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© 1999 by Rick Hines.
Material may not be used without the artist's written permission.